‘A dark masterpiece’: THE SEPARATION – Living Record Productions (Online review)

In Festivals, Films, Online shows, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Aleks SierzLeave a Comment

The camera can take you to places where the naked eye rarely goes. Like close. Very close. Close up. And then some. This is exemplified by Fraser Watson’s brilliant filming of The Separation, a 17-minute short written by Dan Horrigan and Haven Taranta.

From the start, we get a close up of Sheila Anderson, a north London theatre worker who also manages media content for a charity, and she’s giving us a disturbing fragment of a traumatic moment. As she describes this invasive incident, we feel uneasy because the close up of her lips and jaw, so near that we can see the pores of her skin, is itself invasive — and we are voyeurs.

Then she talks about her relationship with Carla, a hard-working writer who looks set to break into the big time. We breathe a sigh of relief, then slowly, oh so very slowly, this turns once more into anxiety. As her account of her everyday life deepens and deepens, our discomfort increases. Not only because the camera is often too close for comfort, but also because of the psychological precision of the writing, its ambiguity, its fierce intelligence and its psychological intensity.

As this piece explores the boundaries between what is thought and what is spoken, it also shifts between the objective and the subjective in a powerfully compelling way. By the end, the subtle resonances with Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, from thoughts pasted to the back of the skull to the coming light, increase its power.

The hallucinatory vividness of the writing is enhanced by verbal images of fresh meat and visual images of cold, icy rooms. Above all, Nathalia Campbell-Smith’s excellent, courageous, performance as Sheila is coolly fascinating, drawing us ever so slowly into a world of immense mental agony. Accompanied by Dom Bouffard’s superb music, this is a fraught and frightening story that challenges us with its representation of trauma, while also delighting us with its skilful art. A dark masterpiece.

© Aleks Sierz

The Separation teaser is streaming on YouTube.

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Aleks Sierz
Aleks Sierz FRSA is a theatre critic, and author of the seminal study of new 1990s playwrights, In-Yer-Face Theatre. His other books include Rewriting the Nation, The Theatre of Martin Crimp, John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, The Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary British Playwrights and Modern British Playwriting. His latest book (co-authored with Lia Ghilardi) is The Time Traveller’s Guide to British Theatre. He also works as a journalist, broadcaster, and lecturer. Aleks blogs independently at www.sierz.co.uk and tweets at @alekssierz.
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Aleks Sierz on RssAleks Sierz on Twitter
Aleks Sierz
Aleks Sierz FRSA is a theatre critic, and author of the seminal study of new 1990s playwrights, In-Yer-Face Theatre. His other books include Rewriting the Nation, The Theatre of Martin Crimp, John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, The Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary British Playwrights and Modern British Playwriting. His latest book (co-authored with Lia Ghilardi) is The Time Traveller’s Guide to British Theatre. He also works as a journalist, broadcaster, and lecturer. Aleks blogs independently at www.sierz.co.uk and tweets at @alekssierz.

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